Multi-Instrumentalist & Production master mind Dan Swanö was kind enough to take a moment from his busy schedule to give us some interesting insights about Music Production, Analog vs digital etc.
Dan has worked with numerous bands through-out his career including: Opeth, Dark Funeral, Edge of Sanity, Dissection, Millencolin, Katatonia, Marduk, Bloodbath, Omnium Gatherum, Nasum, etc.
1. What was the thing that got you into Music Production?
I would say that my older brother Dag is to blame for this. Already at an early age, recording the stuff we did was obligatory and there are recordings of me at age 5, singing while my brother plays guitar. And the more I think of it, pretty much every time me and my brother did something together musically was recorded. He did lots of sound-on-sound stuff on his AKAI reel-to-reel thing and I did the same, but on less fancy equipment. I have memories of recording something to a boom-box and then play that tape on my fathers Skantic hi-fi and place the boom-box close to one of the speakers and I would lie on the floor and do the vocal overdubs…and as the equipment got better, my desire to record stuff and create sound scapes similar to that I had heard on albums was a bigger motivation for me than to rock out on stage. And by the time the band I was in at the time bought a Yamaha MT100 4 track cassette porta studio, I was definitely hooked. I could go on forever..
2. What’s your stance on the digital vs analog battle?
Well, the old Joe Meek saying “If it sounds right, it is right” is something I live by and it’s been working just fine 🙂 I love total recall and with the amount of simultaneous projects I have going, a more analogue set up would be impossible for me. I have great respect for both “schools” and maybe one day I will have the time and money to dabble a little bit more with the same class of analogue gear as I feel that I have in the digital domain. It is definitely cooler to tweak the knobs (klack, klack, klack) on my UA6176 than it is to turn the knobs of the software emulation of it on the UAD card..
3. Do you think one day software, emulation-hardware etc will surpass the real thing?
That is a tough question because I think brands like UAD are real close at emulating some of the most revered things from the analogue world already, and some plug ins have added features that makes them more versatile, and help the plug in to product better results than the hard ware would..stuff like side-chain EQ and the ability to alter attack and release times..turn noise floor off etc. But I guess there are still stuff happening inside a real device that can be really hard to emulate because the code will be super heavy on the CPU’s – but to me, the latest versions of UAD’s emulations of all the classics are really the back bone of my mixes and I love the way it sounds..so I am gonna stick to that and just mix bands rather than hanging out on internet forums asking discussing tubes are better for that nice warmth around 12 hz… 😉
4. How do you see the current Music Production scene? The pros the cons, what we might be missing/what we could improve?
I fucking hate the Loudness War, and I am as guilty as any one of producing records with crazy volumes , but once I got a “what the fuck!!??” email from an online audiophile website, I really started listening to the damage the limiting did, rather than just slam everything into it to achieve -5,5 dB RMS mixes. And once I did that, I saw the light and since them I have tried to repair some of the damage I have done by always making a separate mix with full dynamics, and also the same with masterings, and once the band can choose which mix sounds the best, independently of the output volume, they might understand more that it is not just a choice of making it loud or not, like picking blue or black….the volume comes with a sonic sacrifice!
5. What’s the latest piece of gear (hardware/software) that made you go bananas?
The DMG Limitless is awesome and it’s currently rivalling the FabFilter Pro-L as the best limiter plug in I have ever come across. I also fucking love the Melda Spectral Dynamics plug-in. Once you understand it, it’s fucking crazy what you can achieve with this 8000 band compressor (!!)
6. Let’s say we could get the brightest of the brightest and smartest of the smartest to come up with a piece of gear (software/hardware) and it could eliminate one annoying thing, what would it be (could be audio or anything, physically impossible or possible)?
The need for equipment to make/record/mix an album. Just hold some small device to my head and the way I hear the song in my head, would come right out of the speakers. That’d be something! I’d also love a compressor that reacts really close to the sensitivity to the human ear and something that makes a “as if it was re-recorded twice” perfect double tracking emulation for vocals, guitars etc. without sounding like a robot or a chorus thing..
7. If you could give one piece of advice to a young starting home-studio producer, what would it be?
Aim for the stars and always A/B to mixes made by the masters. If their mixes don’t sound as good as they are expensive, change or tweak the speakers until you really feel that it is exactly how you wish you would have been able to do it, from the deepest bass to the highest highs and then flip back and forth until you have a sound similar to what they have. These days, it’s a bit easier with all the “signature packs” of tweaks and samples, guitar plugs etc. but still. You have to avoid learning to like a crappy sound, because it sounds good in your speakers..without any A/B to a world class mix.. And once you start to get the hang of exactly how fucking awesome it must sound in your speakers before you’re even half done..then you will know if you should give up and watch NetFlix for a living…or dive in and take everything to the next level..which can be exceptionally rough on body and soul (and relationships)
8. Can you name a trend in metal production/metal in general/music in general that you saw wasn’t gonna
fly but nobody listened to you until the trend was over?
Well..not really..Most things I find/found annoying are still flying, like ultra-quantized kick-d rums that no human will ever be able to play that well, even with robot feet and terrible drum replacements with 1 sample for all velocities.. I kind of had a future vision for the whole Nu-Metal thing though, and I remember telling someone that one day there would come something out of that terrible “we have a DJ and rap a bit” fucking crap, and that would be a darker kind of metal, devoid of any nu-metal “musts” but keeping some of that deep tuned guitars, the aggression and groove and good, normal singing and the focus on good material and stuff..